Uncommon Survivor: 16k Mile 1988 Alfa Romeo 33

From a driving perspective, the Alfasud was always going to be a tough act to follow. However, Alfa Romeo managed to do a pretty decent job when they introduced the 33. Early examples were once again rewarding vehicles to drive, but those early examples also exhibited all of the various foibles and issues that so badly tarnished the image of the Alfasud. By the time our features car was introduced, Alfa was definitely on a path to substantial improvements in build quality, and this improvement is reflected by just how nicely this 31-year-old 33 Ti has survived. If a small but practical Italian classic fits somewhere on your shopping list, then you will find the 33 located in Dallas, Texas, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the Alfa has now reached $10,100, and the reserve has been met.

The official factory name for the color that graces the panels of this Alfa is “Grigio Ardesia.” It is an attractive shade of grey, and on this car, it shows a great depth of shine. The panels themselves appear to be nice and straight, with no signs of any dings or dents. The external trim also appears to be in good condition, while it would appear that the glass is free of major scratches or chips. For many classic car enthusiasts, the big question that will hover over an Alfa will almost always revolve around the question of rust issues. It would appear that this is not a problem, because there is certainly nothing visible externally. There are still some areas that should be the subject of a personal inspection, including under the battery and around the rear wheel openings, but if these are solid, then this is definitely an Alfa that shows some promise. This 33’s cause has probably been aided by the life that it has lived. Prior to finding its way to Texas, the Alfa has spent its life in the drier climes of Portugal. That is the sort of environment that tends to limit rust problems. Having said that, substantial improvements by Alfa Romeo in the areas of build quality and quality control meant that by the time this vehicle rolled off the production line, many of the horrendous rust issues of the past had been largely put behind the company. A thorough inspection is still advisable, but these improvements mean that there was a far smaller chance that any new Alfa of this era was going to be prone to dissolving before your very eyes.

One of the great highlights of almost any Alfa Romeo is its engine, and the 33 doesn’t disappoint here. The 1,490cc “boxer” 4-cylinder engine fitted to the 33 was essentially an enlarged and improved version of the engine that saw service in the Alfasud. By 1988, this engine was producing a healthy 103hp, which was sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. The presentation of the engine bay of this car is extremely tidy and is all that you would expect from a car with a mere 16,000 genuine miles on the clock. The owner doesn’t identify any issues or problems, and also provides this YouTube video of the Alfa running and driving. This indicates that the car runs and drives very nicely, with no signs of any odd noises or problems.

The interior presentation of the 33 is just as impressive as the rest of the car, with no signs of any rips, tears, or staining on the upholstery. The original radio/cassette player has been replaced with a CD player, but otherwise, the interior remains original. I can remember reading a road test for the original 33, and the journalist at the time was less than complimentary about the vehicle’s ergonomics. If my memory is correct, he expressed the belief that all of the various knobs, switches, and controls, had been loaded into a bazooka, which was then fired at the dash! The 1988 Alfa 33 is far more conventional in that sense, with all of the various controls being located in pretty much the areas that you would expect them to be. Interestingly, Alfa Romeo was one of a number of manufacturers from this era who chose to equip their cars with power windows for front seat occupants, while those in the back had to make do with manual operation. That is one feature that has always fascinated me.

When it comes to the concept of enjoyable and sporting small front-wheel-drive cars, the standard was really set by the original Mini Cooper S. When the Alfasud was first released, it drew very favorable comparisons with the Mini, but it was beset by a multitude of quality problems. The early examples of the 33 continued this tradition, but by 1988, many of these problems had been addressed. However, this didn’t exempt the 33 from the fate of so many cars of that time, and many people treated it as a disposable item. Finding a good one today is becoming increasingly difficult, but it isn’t completely impossible. The esteem in which these little cars are held can be best demonstrated by the bidding history on this particular car. To date, there have been 35 bids submitted on it, suggesting that there are a few people out there who recognize just what a wonderful and rewarding little car these can be. Are you willing to join the bidding party?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    This brings back memories, Adam! I was loaned a 33 to drive through Germany and Italy back in ’88 or thereabouts, and thought it was thoroughly delightful. Despite the odd (to me) specification, it had what I expected from an Alfa: a free-revving engine, precise controls, and superb handling. I would have brought it home with me if that had been possible….

    A few years later, I latched on to a 16-valve 33 (I believe it was badged “Quadrifoglio”) which I spent a few weeks with. It was better than the first one by far. One could wind the daylights out of the little four-cam engine, the suspension was improved (yes, “superb” can be made better!) and the seats were as good as any I had ever sat in. It was slightly small overall than my then-girlfriend’s Jetta, but seemed to have just as much space inside. Another “keeper,” but of course impossible thanks to the DoT and EPA.

    As a side note, I had no problem with the switches and buttons, which were laid out with at least as much logic as those in a Milano or 164. After a few miles, you find that the only controls you really care about are steering wheel, pedals, and shift lever! And the more you use those, the better it gets.

    This is the first BF offering I’ve seen in a long, long time that makes me hurt a little because I can’t beat the current bid….

    Like 8
  2. Willowen Member

    Alas and doggonit, the otherwise-dandy State of California cares not what the Feds say – any car that never had a CA-legal version shall NOT be issued the documentation necessary to register it for our roads. Or at least that’s the officious, I mean OFFICIAL* version. There are avenues to overcome this, but they are designed to be both difficult to navigate and nearly impossible to satisfy. Most folks in my age and roughly-equivalent income range keep another property in Nevada or somewhere that will allow said car(s) to be registered, and then of course you can garage it or them at your Pasadena or wherever domicile, though I think you have to run it back to Vegas or wherever now and then.

    My late Pa-in-law had a Citroen CX that he tried and tried and tried to legalize, having brought it in just as the so-called Gray Market slammed shut. His son inherited it and took up the task, but wound up selling it to someone in the more civilized reaches of the Northwest.

    *No, I really meant Officious …

    Like 3
    • KEVIN L HARPER

      I thought this had changed. Many years ago when I moved to California I got hit with a bill for bringing in non compliant vehicles. One of them was an Alfa Romeo. I think the fine was around 300 per vehicle. I happily left CA after half a dozen years and shortly thereafter received a check with interest as California had been sued and lost. I think it had to do with the fair trade act.

  3. chrlsful

    some world cars were developed separately in each country. A SAAB looked a bit like this. The Omni was another that sprang up in other countries slightly different but overall similar to each other. Does this 1 have ‘relatives’ among them the early ’80s SAAB? (or something else?). A 4 cyl Alpha that red lines at 5,5? Hummm…

    • RayT Member

      You’re close. The larger Alfa 164 introduced in 1987 shared some of the 33’s styling cues, and shared a platform with the Saab 9000, Fiat (Croma?) and Lancia Thema. The three versions differed in powertrain (one Lancia had a Ferrari-sourced V8), body panels and interiors.

      The 33 was totally Alfa as far as I recall, and was evolved from the dowdy Alfasud. It was, like the 164, a Pininfarina design.

      • Carlos Bonifacio

        Dowdy Alfasud? What do you call a Golf ? Rabbit of the same era? Frumpy?

    • Joe Elliott

      The SAAB 600 was a rebadged Lancia Delta; no relation to this car (which was developed before Alfa was acquired by Fiat), although this car’s engine did find its way into a Nissan Pulsar in some markets. (Note, for what it’s worth, that the actual redline is 6,250 RPM.)

  4. t-BONE BOB

    Time left:1 day 9 hours Sunday, 6:00PM
    Current bid:US $10,200.00
    [ 36 bids ]

  5. Carlos Bonifacio

    I have owned an Alfasud 1,5 Ti GL since 1980, bought new. I still have it and it will be back on road middle of this year. I “loaned” the Sud to my brother for two decades and once he had put it through the wringer, +400 000 kms, he decided to restore it. It led a hard life being parked mainly in the open but fortunately where we live in South Africa, rust is not an issue.

    My brother, who owns an automotive workshop, restored the mechanicals to better then new, blueprinted the motor including gas flowing the heads, fitted Veloce cams, knife edge butterflies, etc. New uprated suspension bushes and cross drilled discs in front were fitted. The only thing that I need to do is fix the dashboard ravaged by the strong sun, have the front seats upholstered, fix up the front door cards and repaint the car in its original cream colour as he sprayed the Sud teal blue.

    Reason for getting it back? He has too many cars and lost interest. Can’t wait to get it back …

    And having driven the 33 decades ago, (nearly traded in my Alfasud on one) I rate the Alfasud superior.

    Look up Jorge Auto Electricians on Facebook to see his current project, a 365 Porsche.

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